3 tempo tips for conductors

Choosing the right tempo for each part of a piece and reliably being able to hit that tempo when the time comes are some of the most important tasks for a conductor. Your band relies on you to be able to bring them up to speed when necessary and back down.

Here are a few tips to help you find and keep the right tempo:

  • Use the composer's recommended tempo for guidance. You don't have to rigidly stick to the exact tempo noted in the sheet music, but you shouldn't vary from it too much, either. The danger is that if you end up speeding up slow parts and slowing down fast parts too much, the whole piece will melt together into an uninspiring medium tempo. 
  • Keep technical limitations in mind. For some instruments, playing certain parts of a piece faster than a certain tempo is essentially impossible. For example, if there's a long section of tongued eighth notes written for the clarinet or saxophone section, they simply won't be able to play it past a certain speed due to the limitations imposed by using a reed. It's also important to ensure that the percussion is clear and beats are separate from one another, rather than blending together.
  • Try it out. Use some rehearsal time to try out different tempos if you're not sure beforehand exactly how fast you should take a certain part. Rather than choosing a tempo ahead of time and making your students stick to it even if they have trouble, find a comfortable medium that still satisfies the needs of the piece.

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